The best kind of beach day ends with dinner and drinks outside — seated at a table on a roomy dock, deck, patio, sand bar, or rooftop at the type of restaurant with waterfront views that demand to be photographed.
The pandemic led many restaurants in and around Philly to expand or, in some cases, construct outdoor dining areas. Down the shore, though, many restaurants prioritized al fresco dining long ago, as eating and drinking outside is a favorite pastime.
Feeling a light breeze as you crack open fresh crabs and watch a cotton candy-colored sunset over the bay never gets old. Neither does sipping an ice-cold beer and breathing in ocean air from a seat at a beach bar, for that matter.
From Long Beach Island to Cape May, you’ll find a lot of waterfront spots that are deeply casual, in addition to a few fancier places where you can pair a nice glass of champagne with fresh, local oysters.
No matter what kind of vibe you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered. These restaurants stand out for their optimal outdoor space and waterfront views that enhance their dining experience.
The Deauville Inn has been a fixture on Corson’s Inlet in Strathmere since 1881 when it first opened as The Whelen Hotel. The name change came in the 1920s as the Deauville Inn thrived during Prohibition — it was even rumored to be home to an illicit casino. New ownership took over in 2019 and completely gutted the space, which was once known for its cheap beer, hot wings, and white plastic chairs. The renovation features a sleek new interior (dark hardwood floors, copper ceilings, a refurbished stone fireplace, and a pub bar), a massive outdoor patio equipped with lots of tables, and a 50-foot bar promising unrivaled views of the bay. The menu matches the atmosphere: Crowd favorites include the smoked oyster gazpacho, made with local oysters and Jersey tomato puree and whole fried red snapper. Next to the patio is a laid-back sand bar area with picnic tables, Adirondack chairs, and a full-service bar on an elevated deck that attracts a younger crowd drinks like the popular lemon crush (Skyy lemon-flavored vodka, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and club soda) or the 32-ounce rum bucket (a dangerous mix of four types of rum and fruit juice).
This lively bar on the bay in Somers Point is such a hit, they decided to open a second location last year in the footprint of the former Springfield Inn and its outdoor Carousel Bar, an iconic Sea Isle landmark, and beloved post-beach pit stop for “no shower happy hour.” While it has big shoes to fill, The Point in Sea Isle seems to attract a similar fresh-off-the-beach crowd for happy hour with its open-air sand bar and rum-based frozen drinks. In Somers Point, you’ll find a similar setup — festooned with faux palm trees — but with a sublime view of the bay. Come here for live music, ranging from classic rock to soca jams, and drinks, like one of the simple-yet-satisfying crushers — a chilly cocktail made with fresh fruit juice (orange or strawberry), vodka of the same flavor, and a splash of club soda.
If you’re feeling a bit fancy, there’s the Water Star Grille — located within stylish Stone Harbor hotel The Reeds at Shelter Haven — to sip champagne while watching the sunset from the restaurant’s bayfront patio. Pair your bubbly with fresh Stone Harbor pearl oysters, harvested nearby around Money Island where the Nantuxent Creek and the Nantuxent Cove empty into the Delaware Bay. Or, if you want to splurge, they also sell a seafood tower, which comes with a whole Maine lobster, four crab claws, eight chilled shrimp, 12 oysters, and tuna ceviche for $180.
It’s hard to beat the ocean views and high-energy vibe at this beachfront bar and restaurant in Brigantine. The spacious sand bar’s desirable location and lineup of live music — mostly beach jam bands playing classic rock and today’s top hits — keeps it busy, especially with younger crowds looking for tropical frozen cocktails near the ocean. For post-beach grazing, there’s a menu of unfussy seafood appetizers and sandwiches.
The Surfing Pig serves up real wood-pit barbecue — a rare find down the shore — along with a variety of seafood and bold boozy drinks on its big outdoor deck on the bay. The family-owned-and-operated restaurant slow-smokes their meats and also makes a homemade sweet-and-tangy Klepto BBQ sauce. There’s more here than lunch and dinner, they also serve up breakfast skillets (piled high with eggs, cheese, potatoes, and a variety of meats or veggies) and the Chum Bucket Bloody Mary, which comes dusted with Old Bay and topped with shrimp and crab.
You can arrive by foot or by boat to this giant beer garden on the Barnegat Bay in Long Beach Island. It’s a great spot to bring the kids (of the human and canine variety), chill out, and play lawn games like giant Jenga, bean bag toss, and connect six. Picnic tables with umbrellas line the border of the massive spot and there’s more seating under a big central tent if you prefer the shade. Wash down a lobster roll, cheeseburger sliders, or crispy, golden-fried clam strips with a beer from nearby Icarus Brewing in Lakewood, N.J.
At Two Mile Landing, you’ll find over 500 feet of waterfront dining at two restaurants — Two Mile Restaurant and The Crab House — that both have large outdoor decks filled with tables right on the bay in Wildwood Crest. Two Mile Restaurant is the spot for more refined seafood entrees like spanish paella and a blackened NY strip steak with garlic shrimp; the Crab House is the spot if you’re looking to put in some work and pick at Maryland-style blue crabs at a paper-covered picnic table. The latter’s all-you-can-eat blue claws special features locally caught medium-sized blue claws steamed in the house crab spice, plus fries and an ear of corn.
Aptly named, this BYOB is one of the best waterfront restaurants to admire a shore sunset. It’s on the much (much) quieter end of this busy beach town — far away from the crowds in their early 20s bouncing from one crowded, sticky bar to the next — and has a relaxing, laid-back ambiance. Sunset Pier has an extensive menu of kid-friendly American classics, including chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, and grilled cheese, in addition to fresh seafood, and the popular clam chowder or crab cakes. Grab a table on the dock, and don’t forget to bring a bottle of wine.
There aren’t many rooftop bars down the shore like Harry’s, with plenty of elevated deck seating, unobstructed views of the ocean, and daily live music from local cover bands and solo acts. It’s known for many things — outdoor space, weekly specials, frozen cocktails — but it might be best known for its clam chowder, which won the Cape May Chili & Chowder Cook-Off six times. Go for happy hour, which runs daily from 4 to 6 p.m., and get the chowder for $5 and a Miller Lite or Yuengling draft for $2.50. The menu also includes fresh local oysters and Cape May scallops.
Ventura’s Greenhouse is right on the beach in Margate next to one of the shore town’s most quirky and famous tourist attractions: Lucy the Elephant. Stop at the big sand bar out back before heading home from the beach to cool down with a draft beer or a cocktail on the rocks. Alternative plan: Head up to the outdoor covered deck for no-frills shore shack fare (burgers, pizza, and fried crab cake sandwiches), attentive service, colorful string lights, and awesome views of the ocean (or of Lucy, which is also pretty awesome).
A popular beachfront resort in Avalon since 1967, The Windrift was acquired in late March 2021 by ICONA Resorts, a luxury resort group that now owns and operates the largest oceanfront resorts in Avalon and Stone Harbor. While there are plans to renovate the hotel’s 104 rooms and common areas in winter 2021, it’s unclear if the six dining areas will see any major changes. For now, Level 2 at The Windrift still offers unmatched ocean views and sufficient outdoor deck seating. If you can’t get a table there, see if there’s room on the sun deck one floor up. It’s smaller, but you’ll get the same great views alongside sushi (mostly basic rolls like spicy tuna and shrimp tempura), decadent lobster bisque, and thin-crust pizzas. If the outdoor tables are all taken, don’t fret. The view is still pretty spectacular from the inside, thanks to the huge ocean-facing windows behind the sleek marble bar. The cocktail menu has a few creative takes on classics that hit the mark, like the Misunderstood Mule, a Moscow Mule made with watermelon juice.